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Education Consultancy Ireland

Making that move to a new destination, relocating family, pets and all your belongings can be extremely challenging. Knowing even where to begin when it comes to finding the right education for your child is also more often than not a minefield, with each country having it’s own systems in place. Therefore, in light of the in-house Ireland Educational Consultants we now have in Dublin; and understanding the complexities of navigating these waters, we’ve drawn on the years of expertise we have on hand and compiled the following Irish Education System in focus guide…

Importantly, all families should note that regardless of where you’re currently living or country you are coming from the application process is the same for every child who wishes to study in Ireland. You will require proof of identity (passport or birth certificate), proof of catchment area for primary school applications in this case a proof of address – utility bill, and each child’s last two school reports. For primary schools, secondary schools both public and private, international schools and preschools – applications are made directly to the school.

Types of Schools…

It is important to understand the different types of schools available and thefore work out the best schools in Ireland for your child. The different stages of education are:

    • Primary Education starts from ages 4 or 5 to 12 or 13 years old (Junior infants consists of junior infants, senior infants and then classes from the 1st through to 6th class) with the primary school cycle being 8 years long in total.
    • Secondary Education starts from age 12 to 18 approximately (1st year to 6th Year). The secondary school cycle is 5 or 6 years long. Some schools provide the option of 4th year – or transition year – some schools make it compulsory.
    • Preschool – THE ECCE scheme (Early Childhood Care and Education) – provides early childhood care and education for children of pre-school age. Children can start ECCE when they are 2 years and 8 months of age and continue until they transfer to primary school (provided that they are no older than 5 years and 6 months at the end of the pre-school year).
      This scheme offers 3 free preschool hours per day during school term time for age-appropriate children.

Primary Education

It is important to note from the offset that ‘Public primary schools’ – where you don’t pay schools fees – are also known as ‘National Schools’, and are predominantly catholic schools and also very often single sex schools. There are also alternatively a small number of schools of other denominations such as ‘Church of Ireland’; these tend to be smaller and more often than not oversubscribed.

The primary school day whether public or private ranges somewhere between starting at 8.50am and with final classes finishing at 3pm; again depending on the age of the child too. It should be noted that the private school day does tend to be a little longer.

Obtaining a place at a public or ‘national’ school depends predominantly on where you live, your catchment area is everything (this should therefore be kept in mind when choosing a property). Each school has their own admissions policy and children living within the school’s catchment area are given priority of a place over those living outside the catchment area. However, keep in mind that siblings of current students already enrolled at the school in question are the first priority to be accommodated – this is the case at every type of school, at every level, throughout the country – so if you are just arriving in Ireland be prepared not to be at the absolute top of the priority list irrespective of the right catchment area.

Non-Denominational schools…

Multi-Denominational schools, or non-denominational schools are an increasingly popular choice these days for parents in Ireland, becoming particularly prevalent over the last decade especially. The divide between the Catholic Church and education is ever growing.

With this in mind ‘Educate Together schools’ are public schools (no fees) and are available for both primary and secondary school level. New educate together schools open every year all over the country in order to meet the demand for this type of schooling and have been established across Ireland since the 1970’s. Most Educate Together schools are set up by groups of parents who wish for this type of school in their locality. The schools are state-funded, child-centred with the ethos of “equality of access and esteem to students irrespective of their social, cultural or religious background.”

National schools…

National schools or public primary schools in Ireland do not charge fees but there are some costs associated with attending this type of school. There are books and uniforms, and usually the school requests a sum of money from each child for the academic year to cover costs such as insurance, stationary etc. This amount is usually between €50 to €100.

The cost of books and uniforms vary from school to school. Some schools have a generic uniform which can be bought in any department store, while some have their own crested uniform which tends to be a little more expensive. Some schools offer a book rental scheme where textbooks are on loan from the school for the year whereas others ask students have their own books.

Families are often asked for a voluntary contribution to the school which again varies from school to school. On average the amount is €100 per family per year.

Educate together schools and many of the smaller schools of other denominations other than Catholic do not require students to wear a uniform (as opposed to the National schools were it is compulsory for all children to wear a uniform).

Primary Private Schools

Unlike national schools, catchment areas do not come into play for private junior schools. Siblings of current pupils will be given priority and after that it is a matter of applying and hoping a place is available, and if not joining a wait list. Be warned though that for many of the best private schools in Ireland the waiting list can be quite lengthy!

Primary School students are assigned to a particular teacher, who will teach them multiple core subjects and this is the case also within the public primary system. This means that Primary School students usually remain in the same classroom throughout the course of the school year. However, as stated previously given the curriculum can be slightly broader, primary private school students may have differing teachers for some of the broader subjects like European languages and music for example.

Should you decide to send your primary school aged child to a private school you will benefit from smaller class sizes, a broader curriculum and without a doubt better onsite facilities.

In addition to the cost of uniforms and books school fees for private schools range from approximately €5,000 to €10,000 per year for a private junior school teaching the Irish curriculum. An international school will be more expensive.

Irish National Curriculum… across all Primary Education (Private & Public)

The primary school curriculum is divided into the following key areas:

  • Language – Irish and English
  • Mathematics
  • Social, Environment and Scientific Education
  • Arts Education, including Visual Arts, Music and Drama
  • Physical Education
  • Social, Personal and Health Education.

Private schools, as previously mentioned, do tend to offer a broader curriculum, for example offering European languages and music classes, alongside often a more extensive sports programme to it students.

School Holidays

School holidays on average are slightly longer for private primary schools, with students finishing up for the summer at the end of May or early June. National schools finish at the end of June. Primary schools, both public and private, start their new academic year at the end of August/early September.

There are 2 weeks holidays at Christmas and Easter and a 1 week mid-term break in October and February.

Secondary Schools

Like primary schools, secondary schools in Ireland are a mix of coeducation and single sex schools. There is a choice between catholic and other religious denominations and non-denominational schools like Educate Together schools.

Private & Public Secondary School

The only major difference between Private and Public Schools in Ireland at Secondary level is that at a Private school you will pay fees to attend and there is potentially a broader subject choice available – but not always – and often better facilities. If you decide on a public school – so a non fee paying school – for your child at secondary level, you will need to still factor in the costs of books (in some cases, laptops or electronic devices are required aswell) uniforms and a voluntary contribution. The costs differ from school to school and year to year.

Private school fees for secondary schools in Ireland range from €5,500 to €8,500 approximately per year in addition to the costs of books, uniforms etc.

Typically the school day will be somewhere between 8.30am to 4.30pm, with summer holidays being 1 month longer for secondary level students as schools finish the academic year at the end of May and don’t commence classes again until the end August.

Secondary Education Curriculum

The first three years of Secondary School are part of the “Junior Cycle”. Throughout the 1st, 2nd and 3rd years, students will study for a state examination called ‘The Junior Cycle Student Award’. This is a mixture of continuous assessment, oral and written exams over multiple subjects. The exams run for approximately 3 weeks from early June every year. Although this is a state examination, it does not determine future further education – University or College places. The purpose of the JCSA is to prepare students for the Leaving Certificate, which is held at the end of 6th Year.

The 4th Year is a gap year of sorts for maturity and personal development. It is commonly referred to as “Transition Year” or “TY”. It is increasingly common for this year to be made compulsory in schools but still remains optional in many.

The curriculum and subjects on offer differ from school to school. Like primary schools, the curriculum tends to be broader in private schools with a wider range of subjects available to students. Class sizes are smaller and in general facilities are more impressive.

At secondary level students have a different teacher for each subject and move around the school from classroom to classroom throughout the day, following a timetable.

During the 5th and 6th Years, students will study for an important state-held examination called the ‘Leaving Certificate’, multiple examinations for multiple subjects, like the JCSA. The results of these examinations are counted up and the number of points that you achieve in the Leaving Certificate will determine what university courses you will be able to take. Most university courses will have a minimum points requirement.

International Schooling

Students at an international school tend to receive a global and more personalised learning experience and it is potentially deemed one of the best private school options in Ireland. Exposure to a more diverse range of subjects and sports is far more common than in a traditional Irish secondary school whether it be public or private. International schools provide additional services such as a school bus and a full school canteen (at an additional fee). Services such as these are not readily available in the vast majority of private schools in Ireland and certainly not in public schools.

It is common to wear a school uniform at an international school and you can expect class sizes to be smaller than in a traditional public or private school in Ireland. Schools hours vary and tend to be longer for younger years than at a traditional primary school; but similar to those at secondary level in Irish secondary schools.

The selection of co-curricular and extra-curricular sports and activities on offer is so vast it provides something for everyone!

It is not unusual to see activities from chamber music and vocal ensemble to coding and scientific research available to students at an international school.

International schools operate a little differently to traditional schools in Ireland. The most obvious difference is that they teach the IB curriculum, the ‘International Baccalaureate’ rather than the Irish curriculum. To briefly explain the IB diploma, developed by teachers in Geneva, was created to provide an educational program that facilitated students who moved internationally by providing a cross border education that was consistent wherever it was taught. IB World Schools share a common philosophy which is “a commitment to improve the teaching and learning of a diverse and inclusive community of students by delivering challenging, high quality programmes of international education that share a powerful vision”. The course is a two-year course for 16 to 18-year-olds and is highly regarded by top universities and colleges around the world.

Initially they concentrated on developing an educational program to prepare students for college or university, by creating a set of exams that these students would need to pass to attend any university around the world. However, in Ireland there is also now the option to study the IB curriculum from ages 3 right through to 18 years old.

Should you decide that you would like your child to attend an IB school in Ireland you have the option of a primary only which enrols children from ages 3 to 12 in other words starting with early years right through to grade 12. The education at an IB school is broken down into the following years:
– Early years – ages 3 to 6 years old
– Primary 6 to 11 years old
– Middle 11 to 16 years old
– Diploma 16 to 18 years old

Fees at an international school are much higher in Ireland than at a traditional private school with fees starting at approximately €11, 000 per year for early years up to €18,000 per year approximately for Diploma years.


It is not unusual to see activities from chamber music and vocal ensemble to coding and scientific research available to students at an international school.

The normal pattern for the free pre-school year is 3 hours a day, 5 days a week, over the school year. It is a case of applying directly to pre-schools for this service. Wait lists can be long, so it is advisable to apply as soon as possible to your pre school of choice.

If you require wrap around childcare for a preschool aged child the 3 hours per day provided through the ECCE scheme is deducted from the weekly amount charged by the childcare provider. This is as long as they participate in the ECCE scheme.